Hello hello. The weather has been so very lovely--highs in the upper 60s, lows in the 50s, warm, gentle breezes, and the occasional soft rain shower to water everything in nicely. Thanks to this nurturing gift of perfect days, things are flourishing here under the magic holly tree (which has, due to the ministrations of the arborist, become the magic holly TOPIARY).
Two days ago, I dug and installed our strawberry patch out near the nascent herb forest. Because I didn't have the foresight to buy strawberry crowns online (thus affording myself a larger variety), I was stuck with what the Home Despot :) had to offer. They had ONE variety of June-bearing strawberry--"Cardinal"--and ONE variety of ever-bearing strawberry--"Ozark Beauty." I bought roughly 12 Ozark Beauties and 8 Cardinals. I then panicked at the fact that they didn't have a suitable home and spent the afternoon digging what I'll fondly refer to as my "strawberry concentration camp" (it's a little too small for 20 plants, I fear). The bricks came from a friend's backyard (she was thrilled to be shot of them). The dirt was full of luscious, monstrous worms, including a six inch long nightcrawler. Our back-of-the-property soil is SO wonderful (minus the large chunks of coal I keep unearthing!). I figure the bed space will be adequate for the strawberries this season, and that once they start shooting out runners, I can either clip them back to make them bushier, or just do some more sweating and callous-ing and expand the bed outward.
Behind me, in the lopsided circle, is the beginning of my herb forest. I've plenty of room to expand it (though it will lose its circular shape) as my herb seedlings grow up and are ready for transplanting. I'm thrilled to have so many size varieties to incorporate into my herb forest--from towering mullein and asphodel to creeping pennyroyal, and everything in between. I'm going to sink several large terra cotta saucers into the soil for butterfly/bee watering holes and I'm really hoping to salvage a toad from the Kroger parking lot (where they hang out under the lights and, inevitably, get squished) to live in the little moss toad house I plan on building. At left is the herb forest as it stands (right now, it's a forest only to the tiniest of creatures).
I KNOW it's totally UNIMPRESSIVE at the moment. There's catnip, feverfew, Russian comfrey, lady's mantle, motherwort, yarrow, St. Johnswort, viper's bugloss, canterbury bells (NOT an herb, I know, but pretty...and I had nowhere to put it after I'd dug it up from the old house!), and two tiny rosemary plants that will someday be very big rosemary plants (or so I keep telling them. And folks--isn't that soil just LOVELY?
Like I said, I know it's not much to look at right now, but see that ever-expanding list of "currently sprouting" plants on the right-hand side of this blog? Many, many of those are herbs, and a good majority of those herbs are going to become a part of this ever-expanding bed. Today, the Tibetan Gentian made an appearance (soooo excited!) as did the bittersweet nightshade. It's a climber, so I think I'll invite it to loop itself around the front porch railing. There will be some culinary herbs planted amongst the vegetables--basil, for instance, will go with the tomatoes (of course!), as will the garlic chives. I'm also bringing along some marigolds that I can companion plant with the veggies for pest control purposes.
Speaking of veggies...here's a look at the two raised beds we've built so far (including the ingeniously movable anti-cat fence Jacob constructed). On Monday, I planted 5 varieties of carrots (Imperator, Red Core Chatenay, Thumbelina, Oxheart, and Dragon) and some Bull's Blood beets, so I'm anxiously awaiting the first signs of green in that bed.
Finally, my sugar snap peas are happily making their way up their chicken wire trellis. I love the fact that I can view them at ground-level by looking out my basement window! :) I can already tell that these peas will be far more successful than last year's planted-too-late-in-clay-soil peas which yielded ONE straggling plant that eeked out ONE SINGLE FLAVORLESS PEA POD beore dying. Also sprouting in that bed (though they don't show in the picture) are California and Flanders poppies. They'll add a nice pop of color, attract bees and other happy pollinators and nectar-sippers, and make a nice sedative tincture or tea once they've started blooming.
Finally, an update on the True Unicorn seedlings--they're starting to take the shape of actual seedlings now, rather than just tiny green specks in the soil. I have many of them--about 15-20, I'd say, and I couldn't be more delighted. I bought a copy of a book by Richo Cech (Horizon Herbs guru) called Growing At-Risk Medicinal Herbs which is, perhaps, the only book in the entire world that offers detailed cultivation information for True Unicorn (as well as False Unicorn, which I've still had ZERO success with). I want to know how to treat these little beauties!
As I type this, I've glanced at the weather to see that the NWS is calling for snow showers on Mon/Tues of next week. I know it won't kill anything that's currently outside, but it WILL kill my happy, spring-like mood if I have to break out the whale sweater and wool socks again.
Speaking of killing things, I ROASTED my Monkshood seedlings. Every last one of them. I'm pretty damn pissed at myself--I woke up too late on a sunny Saturday and ran outside to remove the cover from my seedling tray only to discover that the damage had been done. The soil was STEAMING and the little Monkshoods (who love cool weather when they first start out...) were all keeled over. I nearly cried. I also fried the only English bluebell I'd managed to sprout. There may be a couple of Monkshoods coming up in another, smaller flat I'd started a little later in the winter, but they may have been snockered (aka drowned) in the recent rains. It's obviously not a life or death thing, but I'm still very sad. I'm pleased to know that I CAN grow monkshood...just sad to know that I can't try it again until next winter (which, really, I don't even want to think about right now).
I may satisfy myself and buy an aconite plant from the nursery, but it'll feel a whole lot like cheating.
Ah well! At least I didn't roast my tomato seedlings. They're flourishing. :)